Wolfgang Kaufmann – At Road America & Anderstorp
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Wolfgang is one of the many characters in our kind of racing. The German – nickname Piranha – has an amazing ability to rattle off the story of a race at breakneck speed, in a tongue other than his own. Here he tells the tale of the Road America 500, in the Konrad Saleen, and then Anderstorp in the Wieth Ferrari.

“I love racing in America in the ALMS, and it was fantastic to have the chance to race Franz’s Saleen at Road America. I loved the circuit, but I didn’t have much time to learn it because Franz did most of the driving on Friday, to check the car out and set it up after the accident it suffered at Mosport.

“When I went out for my first laps a driveshaft broke, so I didn’t get much of a chance in it, and then on Saturday, Franz wanted to check the Saleen over again. Anyway, he then let me qualify it, and start the race: it’s a good job I don’t take long to learn a circuit. I drove the first stint, and pitted with the car in fourth in GTS, ahead of one of the Corvettes, which had gone off somewhere. One of the team wasn’t wearing goggles at the stop though, so we had a penalty for that, but Franz did a good job: then he pitted under a yellow, but stopped too far from the fuel rig. The guys had to push the car to and fro to get it nearer the fuel line, and that lost us time. But I drove the last stint, and brought the car home fifth in class.

“There are a number of developments that the ALMS car needs, and if those could be carried out, we’d have the car on the podium. It is potentially a fantastic car, and the Konrad guys are very professional, but very funny too. The gearbox is different from the one in the FIA car, and I’ve seen Franz lose some good places there because of problems with the transmission.

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“Of course it all comes down to the budget, but at least I had a chance to race the car, and I think I impressed Franz. He knew I was quick anyway, because he let me drive the FIA car at the Spa 24 Hours Test – and we’ve known each other for a long time. With my connections with Dunlop, it’s a perfect match for me to drive the Saleen.

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“I think Franz is considering doing Petit Le Mans, but I’m already down to race the Wieth Ferrari that weekend, at Monza. That’s bad planning, having those two races coincide like that. But with some luck, maybe quite a lot of luck, I might be in the car at Miami for the next ALMS race. Franz wants quick drivers in the car, but it all depends on budget, as usual.

“So one race in the ALMS, then back to Europe for Anderstorp last weekend, in the Wieth Ferrari. The team had been testing on the Bugatti Circuit while I was in America, and I know that the testing went very well.

dailysportscar.com“At Spa for the 24 Hours, we’d used the new Forghieri engine in the 550, and that was a big step forward. It was more powerful than the old engine, but it didn’t have anything like the torque of the Saleen’s V8: that is an amazing engine. But at least we had taken a big step forward with the Ferrari, and we were confident that we’d overcome problems with the power steering and water pump belts.

“Our lap times are now consistently much closer to the top cars in the FIA GT Championship: say two seconds away from them. That is an amazing achievement for a small team, building their own Ferrari. They’ve worked incredibly hard at it this year, making progress all the time. My qualifying time would have been even better but I lost some tenths passing an N-GT car – but we still qualified ahead of the #21 Care Racing Ferrari. How about that?

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“I started the race, but I flat-spotted a tyre missing the accident, and then the flat spot got worse during the stint, but I kept the #21 Ferrari behind me…and they finished fifth. The performance was really good, and I was making the most of the car, despite the flat spot. I pitted a little earlier than planned, because we didn’t want to risk the tyre any more, and Tony Ring took over for his first race in the car. He drove for 45 minutes, and did his best, but it’s not easy jumping from a 360 Challenge car – but he got quicker and quicker all the time he was out there.

“The plan was for me to drive the last hour and a quarter, with a splash for fuel near the end, but we ran into some difficulties before that.

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“We had a gearbox leak and a problem with the hydraulics for the power steering. The team hoped to fix the gearbox, but the leak was in a very difficult place to get to, and the temperatures had got too high. So we had to sit out the last period of the race, but we were still classified as finishers. That was a disappointing way to end the race, but this team is made up of fighters – they don’t give up unless they really have to.

“I’m not sure if Niko Wieth will drive with me at Oschersleben, or maybe a professional driver. We’ll keep fighting, and keep looking for a good finish: we all deserve it!

“So maybe I’ll be at Miami after Oschersleben, and I would like to race in the November race at Le Mans. I love racing!”

 

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